Many juveniles in New York City are arrested every week and given a family court summons for a crime that would otherwise subject him or her to a permanent criminal record. A juvenile is “defined” in the Penal Law as a person under the age of sixteen years old. To be more precise, it is actually a defense to a criminal charge that the defendant was less than sixteen at the time the offense was allegedly committed. See Penal Law 30.00. Often times juveniles are arrested for such offenses as Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree, Penal Law 221.10, Unlawful Possession of Marijuana, Penal Law 221.05, Petit Larceny, Penal Law 155.25, Assault in the Third Degree, Penal Law 120.00, Criminal Mischief, Penal Law 145.00, and Making Graffiti, Penal Law 145.60. However, in other cases, the charges can be more serious, especially where a victim has been killed or seriously injured or a felony charge, such as a drug sale, are involved.
The Family Court process can be daunting for a family inexperienced in defending against allegations such as these, even in juvenile arrest matters. A young defendant and his or her family will most likely be interviewed by probation and if the charge warrants it, be brought before a judge where an adjudication of juvenile delinquency can be made either through an admission or, in some cases, after a fact-finding hearing. The Family Court Act requires the attendance of the juvenile respondent and his or her counsel to be present during such a hearing. It is for this reason, that it is important that your child’s rights are protected by a lawyer experienced in handling juvenile arrest cases. If an adjudication of juvenile delinquency is made, the Family Court Act requires a dispositional hearing to take place within 10 days of the adjudication (if the charge is a felony) or within 50 days of the adjudication (for all other cases). The possible outcomes of a dispositional hearing for a juvenile defendant are three: (i) a conditional discharge, which for all intents and purposes is an order from the court requiring the juvenile to stay out of trouble and comply with whatever other conditions the court deems necessary to correct the behavior, (ii) probation, which would imply reporting to a probation officer for a set period of time, or, in extreme cases (iii) placement in a juvenile detention facility. The court’s decision will be the result of a balancing of the needs of the juvenile against the need to protect the community.
Simply put, should a loved one or family member of yours require assistance in sorting out a family court or adult criminal matter, you should call Galluzzo & Arnone LLP.